BOV – Julian’s Pathfinder Collaboration explores the power of Artificial Intelligence

Several AI concepts presented in the Julian’s Tech Start-Up Challenge 2023

As part of the Julian’s Pathfinder Foundation’s mission, 24 high ability 13- to 15-year-old students from various secondary schools in Malta and Gozo participated in the Julian’s Tech Start-up Challenge 2023, which was organised between the 4th and the 7th of September at the Mount Saint Joseph Retreat House.

The Camp, held in collaboration with the University of Malta, consisted of a 4-day residential event with activities focused on the central theme of Artificial Intelligence. The AI theme brings together various concepts, covering exciting cutting-edge sci-fi concepts, as well as the practical applications and ethical issues around these innovations. This Camp also had the objective of instilling an entrepreneurial mindset, giving the applicants a structured approach for developing innovative ideas.

In a fun, safe and respectful environment, participants followed a series of workshops, Q&As, and mentoring sessions led by experts in their respective areas, which enabled them to acquire essential transferable life-skills. Participants were divided into groups and developed their own AI application and presented their plans to an expert panel at the end of the programme. The panel was made up of Simon Grech (Heads BOVs Commercial Arm), Michael Azzopardi (Director, EY), Amanda Holmes (Board Member, Melita Foundation), Anthony David Gatt (Chief Marketing Officer, Malta Enterprise), Prof Leonie Baldacchino (Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation, University of Malta) and Matthew Caruana (CEO, JA Malta Foundation).

Speaking after the presentations, Mr Grech expressed his satisfaction at the level of innovation of the proposals presented. ‘Such events provide a unique showcase for intellectual abilities, as well as high-level innovative ideas on how present and future generations can put into practice their respective intellectual abilities to make the world a better place through brainstorming and the creation of innovative product concepts’. Mr Grech also shared his admiration for the fact that in presenting their projects almost all groups were seeking to satisfy environmental and social responsibilities whilst still bringing together a commercially viable proposal. He compared such an approach to BOV’s mission to be at the forefront on ESG in the years to come. Mr. Kenneth Farrugia, BOV’s Chief Executive Officer, also attended the session.

The scope of Julian’s Pathfinder Foundation, set up in memory of Julian Spiteri, is to support gifted children in reaching their full potential and find their paths in life where they excel and make a positive contribution to society. The Foundation aims to inspire young people to follow their dreams and think big about future technologies that will help make the world a better place.

BOV, in line with its ESG commitment, continues to contribute towards inclusive and equitable quality education as it continues to reinforce its strong belief that investing in today’s education will give the Maltese society a much better return in the future. Bank of Valletta’s collaboration with The Foundation forms part of the Bank’s CSR programme that aims to give back to society and support the various local communities in which it operates.

EU SME Relief Package addresses shortcomings but leaves more to be desired

This week the European Commission presented its long-awaited SME relief package. The Malta Business Bureau (MBB) welcomes the proposals in the new SME Relief Package aimed at helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe become more resilient and competitive but believes that more clarity is required on how commitments will be implemented to truly help SMEs overcome the challenges currently faced and to thrive in the years to come. The package includes measures to reduce the regulatory burden, boost SMEs’ long-term competitiveness, and strengthen fairness in the business environment. It is a good step forward in making it easier for SMEs to do business but needs more ambition to help them to grow and thrive.

In the past years, SMEs have faced several challenges, including the global pandemic, high inflation, supply chain disruption, skills shortages, and increasing regulatory burden.

Through the SME Relief Package, the European Commission introduces a Regulation on combating Late Payments. This regulation revises a current Directive setting binding maximum payment terms at 30 days for public authorities and business-to-business transactions. It will also make the payment of compensatory fees and interest legally automatic in case of late payment. The Commission believes this will help SMEs improve their cash flow.

Commenting on the new regulation concerning the Late Payments Regulation, MBB CEO Joe Tanti stated that; ‘’a culture of on time payment is essential, and shorter payment terms in business-to-business transactions helps the liquidity of SMEs. However, the law should also preserve freedom of contract and provide the flexibility for businesses to agree on bilateral terms according to their own circumstances.”

The European Commission in its package also plans to create an enabling business environment by reducing the regulatory burden for SMEs and simplifying administrative procedures, together with reporting requirements. It also proposes to strengthen the SME test, to appoint an EU SME Envoy, and improve access to finance for SMEs by increasing the financing guarantee under the InvestEU programme. It will also provide specific tools to help SMEs develop sustainable competitiveness skills such as apprenticeships and training schemes.

“The SME Relief Package is a positive step in the right direction but more needs to be done to support SMEs. The EU needs to build on this package by ensuring that financial support reaches SMEs, avoids introducing new regulatory burdens, increase access to markets and invest in skills and training. By taking these steps, the EU can effectively help SMEs continue to recover from the current global economic challenges,” Mr. Tanti concluded.

TradeMalta augurs R.A. & Sons Manufacturing Ltd. on successfully securing a business deal in Ghana

R.A. & Sons Manufacturing Ltd and JL Properties Gh Ltd have announced the formalisation of a strategic partnership after months of hard work and meticulous preparation during a recent gathering in Malta. This collaboration brings together two businesses committed to driving innovation and delivering unparalleled value to operators in the construction industry.

It all started when Dr Lindsay, Chief Executive Chairman of JL Properties Gh Ltd, was seeking business opportunities to enhance his existing business, particularly his flagship construction projects and Real Estate interests. They were introduced to R.A. & Sons Manufacturing Ltd by H.E. Jean Claude Galea Mallia, Malta’s High Commissioner in Ghana.  In January 2023, the Gozitan company joined the trade delegation to Ghana organised by TradeMalta which continued to pave way for this collaboration.

Mr. Raymond Attard, Director of R.A. & Sons Manufacturing Ltd, announced that as a result of this agreement, R.A. & Sons Manufacturing Ltd will be assisting JL Properties Gh Ltd to set up their own manufacturing site in Ghana. They will be producing high quality construction materials concentrating on specialist products for dampness and humidity problems in the construction sector which is a major challenge in Ghana particularly in Accra which lies below sea level. 

Dr Lindsay, Chief Executive Chairman of JL Properties Gh Ltd, said that he was immensely happy to seal this agreement. He emphasised that these high-quality products are a game changer for the construction Industry in Ghana and that he is looking forward to further strengthen the collaboration between the two companies.

Mr Anton Buttigieg, CEO of TradeMalta, who presided over the signing ceremony said, “TradeMalta is committed to supporting Malta-based businesses in their export endeavors. Ghana offers huge business opportunities in various sectors including manufacturing, health, training, and the educational field.  I am happy to see this collaboration between the two companies and I hope that this will inspire other businesses to do the same. These prospects are the result of the growing relations between the two countries during the past five years when TradeMalta held its first trade mission to Ghana. I encourage more locally based businesses to take the plunge and look for opportunities abroad to grow and thrive.”

TradeMalta offers a range of export and internationalisation services and encourages Malta-based businesses to take their business across borders.

HR GIG 8: Redefining Leadership

Another hugely successful event which brought together the Island’s leading players in the Business and HR community

During the latest edition of HR GIG, Malta’s top CEOs, HR professionals and decision makers met under one roof and discussed the Leadership topic in a 360 degree perspective. 

Hosted by renowned TV personality Lara Azzopardi, the event kicked-off with a speech by Joseph Farrugia, Founder of HR GIG and Director at StreetHR who elucidated the core mission behind HR GIG’s inception – addressing a significant market gap. ‘’When HR GIG first launched, it aimed to bridge the gap between CEOs/business executives and Human Resources Professionals, who frequented separate conferences and discussed disparate topics. The primary objective was to unite these two distinct worlds under one roof, a goal that has since been successfully realised. The enduring role of HR GIG extends beyond event management; it continues to foster a culture of strategic HR collaboration.’’ Joseph emphasised ‘’the imperative need for HR professionals and CEOs to work in tandem.’’ He underscored ‘’that individuals from HR and various disciplines will be empowered to ascend to the company’s highest echelons, assigning equal importance to people as we do to numbers.’’

This was followed by the first keynote speaker. Kenneth De Martino, Chairperson and CEO at KDM Group, tackling the subject ‘Numbers, People or Both?’ In his post even comments he stated “Sharing of experiences and understanding how to redefine leadership was an ideal topic in this day and age. Participating and having such a great audience added to the success of the event”

In the second keynote speech of the event, Bernardette Bonnici Kind, Chairperson at Hospice Malta, tackled the subject ‘Leadership in the New Era’. Looking into the topic from a Voluntary Organisation perspective, she stated ‘When we describe a people-centric organisation, we are saying People come First.  Therefore  we  are  committing  ourselves  to  creating  and maintaining  a culture of caring  and inclusiveness  from  top to bottom and  across all levels,  It  underlines  the  fact that  each  individual   employee  is  equally  important to the enterprise,  not  just  because of  their  competencies,  but  above all, as Human Beings.’’

This was followed up by two panel discussion sessions ably moderated by Rachel Attard from The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. The sessions, which were enriched with contributions from the audience, encompassed high-level panelists including Kenneth Farrugia (CEO, Bank of Valletta), Pierre Mallia (CEO, iMovo), Mikela Fenech Pace (HR Consultant, Upstream), Geoffrey Debono (CEO Debono Group and Council Member at The Malta Chamber), Christine Coleiro (Group Chief Human Resources Officer, FIMBank), John Schembri (CEO, Shield Consultants) and Natalie Kenely (Senior Lecturer & Resident Academic, Department of Social Policy and Social Work – University of Malta).

Joining the event digitally, Chris Vassallo Cesareo, President of The Malta Chamber said, “In a rapidly evolving world, the concept of leadership is undergoing a profound transformation. No longer confined to a hierarchical structure, leadership has transcended traditional boundaries to become a dynamic force. Redefining leadership is about embracing this change and adopting a new perspective.” 

The event also kept the tradition of delivering an element of fun and well-being via a custom created team-building activity which was once again impeccably rolled out by Outdoor Living. The interactive energiser engaged all delegates together in a fun and relaxing way.

HR GIG 8 came to a close with a stand-up lunch in the informal setting of The Xara Lodge. This made an excellent networking opportunity for all delegates who also enjoyed a live performance by talented musicians Mark Rapa and Sarah Bonnici.

Key Partners for HR GIG 8 were The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, Shireburn, Indigo Suite, HSF Health Plan, Outdoor Living, StreetHR and Powerhouse.  Other sponsors included Bank of Valletta, Dakar Software, Costa Coffee, Franks, Corporate Gifts, NIUM Malta and The Xara Lodge.

HR GIG 9 will be held on the 6th September 2024 and will be titled ‘Building Bridges – Uniting EX and CX’ Further information on the next HR GIG in the series can be obtained by checking out or by dropping a line to

BOV’s Naxxar branch reopens after extensive renovation works

Bank of Valletta has just reopened its Naxxar Branch, following extensive refurbishment works. This renovation project forms part of a strategic program that the Bank is implementing with the aim of providing customers with the highest level of service in a modern environment.

During the inauguration, Bank of Valletta’s Chief Executive Officer Mr. Kenneth Farrugia made reference to several initiatives that the Bank is taking to improve customer service. “The Bank’s strategic focus is to put the customer at the centre of all our operations. Our Branches remain an essential pillar within the communities we serve, and this renovation project is yet another step in our commitment to offer an efficient service at all customer touchpoints, be they digital or physical, depending on our customers’ preference.”

The refurbished branch incorporates several environmentally friendly concepts, including elements of sustainability and reduced emissions through the application of natural and renewable materials. The building also achieves high energy efficiency in the use of lighting and water. The branch was designed on the same concept as the branches that have already been renovated, namely those in Tas-Sliema, Paola, Siġġiewi, Żurrieq and Żabbar respectively.

Chief Operations Officer, Mr. Ernest Agius, expressed his satisfaction at the completion of this project. He stated that the Bank’s renovation program is one that not only gives its branches new aesthetics, but also protects the natural environment according to the principles of ESG currently being embraced by the Bank. Mr. Simon Azzopardi, Chief Personal and Wealth Officer, spoke about the importance that the Bank is giving to customer feedback. “By listening to our customers, we are making sure that we understand how our operations are affecting them, so that we will do our utmost to improve the service offered and the overall customer experience.”

BOV’s Chairman, Dr. Gordon Cordina, together with Kenneth Farrugia, unveiled a commemorative plaque and addressed the Branch Manager Christine Mizzi, her team, and distinguished guests present. The Branch was blessed by Naxxar’s Chaplain, Rev. David Gauci. Among the guests present was also the Mayor of Naxxar, Mrs. Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adami.

Eradicate the culture of abuse – The Malta Chamber

The Malta Chamber in its Pre-Budget Document 2024 is insisting on full digitalisation of government services with real-time applications’ tracking

The pervasiveness of practices that propagate a culture of abuse of power and clientelism puts a heavy onus on Government to urgently implement digital systems that increase efficiency, provide full transparency and ensure fairness. Systematic abuses are costing millions in public funds that could easily be invested in systems that would eradicate the possibility of rackets. The monies being squandered through such rackets could be better used to support those who really need help and to address issues which are leading to the country’s deterioration such as the traffic situation, the lack of investment in utility infrastructure, the shabbiness and proper waste management. The longer we allow things to slip, the worse the repercussions and the cost of repairing them will be. Lack of appropriate enforcement, investigation and subsequent prosecution as well as failure to act on findings highlighted by the NAO and the Ombudsman are costing the country dearly and are reflecting very badly on the country’s governance.

The Malta Chamber expects Government’s strong electoral mandate to be reflected in more decisive action and a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of abuse by everyone, particularly that facilitated by those entrusted with political or administrative responsibility.

The Malta Chamber believes that the politicians and public officials who make headlines for the wrong reasons, are putting in disrepute the entire political class and the public service, including those who are doing a good job in their areas of responsibility. When the personal conduct of individuals who abuse of their power deviates from what is rightfully expected by the law-abiding, hard-working and tax-paying citizen, it has far-reaching effects on everyone, including businesses. Practices that encourage people to opt out of productive employment, either by taking up public sector jobs requiring minimal effort, or by applying for benefits under false pretences, have a destabilising effect on our labour market. At a time when everyone is concerned about persistent inflation, it is opportune to point out that such abusive practices ultimately have an inflationary effect on the whole economy, because they exert even more pressure on a very tight labour market. They also increase public spending, which increases Government debt, which is in turn financed by the issue of Government bonds, which in turn put pressure on interest rates to increase, thereby increasing the cost of funding for everyone.

The Malta Chamber therefore appeals to all politicians and policymakers to cut down on clientelism, to think about the repercussions of their actions and about the critical role they play in setting expectations and determining the choices people make in terms of their own employment and recruitment of others, consumption, savings and investments, and planning for their future. Proactive policymaking requires a thorough understanding of the interrelationships between all this, and of people’s perceptions of corruption, enforcement and fairness. 

The Malta Chamber recalls results of the most recent Eurobarometer poll whereby 92% of respondents perceive corruption as being widespread in the country. This figure represents a 13% increase compared to 2022. Businesses operating in Malta also share the perception of corruption being widespread, with 76% of respondents expressing this view, surpassing the average of 65% among the EU27 countries.

Against this bleak background, The Malta Chamber will keep advocating for high ethical standards in public life and working to improve our country’s reputation on an international level. A year ago, The Malta Chamber published a document called ‘A Strong Transparency, Accountability and Ethical Governance Framework for Members of Parliament’ and will continue to push forward recommendations to increase transparency, accountability and ethical behaviour in the interactions of politicians with citizens and businesses.

Concretely, in its Pre-Budget 2024 proposals, The Malta Chamber is calling on Government to:

  1. Fully digitalise Government services with real-time tracking, whereby applications requiring approvals from various professionals/entities would be submitted directly into the system using their digital identity to eliminate the possibility of submission of forged documents.
  2. Regularly rotate staff involved in the processing of sensitive applications to reduce the possibility of tempering with systems and improve the likelihood of detecting attempts to temper with systems very quickly.
  3. Automate various customer care and verification processes to improve efficiency, transparency and consistency. 
  4. Maintain accurate records on the provision of public services and reform the public procurement processes to ensure a level playing field.
  5. Draw a clear demarcation between political responsibility at the ministerial level and the administrative and executive responsibility of the civil service. For example, deciding whether to privatise the provision of a public service or not is a political decision, but selecting the contractor is a matter of executive competence.
  6. Allow the National Audit Office to scrutinise all public contracts above a certain value without requiring a formal request and outrightly prohibit the use of side letters which significantly modify key provisions of an agreement, like offsetting financial risks.
  7. Cap the number of people holding a position of trust and limit positions of trust to those of high political sensitivity or carrying specific security risks. Compensation and benefits received by people in positions of trust need to be fully disclosed and independent audits carried out regularly against stipulated compensation criteria.

HSBC Malta and ĠEMMA unite to nurture young minds in the Art of Socially Responsible Investing

Imagine a world where children are not only equipped with the academic knowledge, they need but are also empowered to make impactful decisions that shape the future.

HSBC Malta is excited to announce a transformative partnership with ĠEMMA, a beacon of financial knowledge, to unveil a captivating financial capability program for young explorers attending Skolasajf this summer. Following this year’s theme of “Piece by Peace” the outcome of the sessions is to cultivate the concept of social responsibility within the minds of young learners, emphasizing the significance of comprehending and making choices aligned with socially responsible investing principles.

At the heart of this endeavour lies ĠEMMA, a guiding star in financial literacy that operates under the Ministry for Social Policy and Children’s Rights. With a passion for nurturing financial wisdom, ĠEMMA empowers Malta’s communities with essential financial skills, making the world of finance accessible and relatable to everyday life.

A team of educators and HSBC volunteers work together to create an interactive, enjoyable training session which is practical, current and hands-on. Together the team will have delivered sessions to roughly 2,500 students aged eight to 15 across 45 SkolaSajf centres throughout Malta and Gozo. The workshops use critical thinking and competitive activities to impart children with the essential competencies required for prudent purchasing, discernment, and investment practices.

Feedback from these sessions has been resoundingly positive. Students have found the experience both engaging and enlightening, while educators have valued the opportunity to engage with young minds on subjects that, while not traditionally part of the standard curriculum, hold paramount importance for their comprehensive growth.

In reference to this initiative, Michel Cordina, Executive Director and Deputy Chairman for the HSBC Malta Foundation stated, “At HSBC Malta, we firmly believe in the transformative power of education and its potential to shape the trajectory of our future. This partnership with ĠEMMA underscores our dedication to the community and underscores our conviction in empowering the upcoming generation with the knowledge requisite for making well-informed decisions in pursuit of a sustainable future.”

A poster competition is also being run for all the children participating in the financially capable program, where the participants, as a team of four, must design a poster showcasing their fictitious company and list four key socially responsible initiatives they would apply. The winners will be informed during the first week of September.

The SkolaSajf workshops are closely aligned with HSBC’s unwavering commitment to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Specifically, they contribute to Goal 4, pertaining to Quality Education, and Goal 12, focusing on Responsible Consumption and Production. For comprehensive insights into this noteworthy initiative and to garner a deeper understanding of the pivotal role financial literacy plays, the public is invited to explore ĠEMMA’s official website or connect with them on their Facebook page.

Leading a Family Business – Course launched by The Malta Chamber, EMCS Academy and the Family Business Office in Malta

“Family businesses have long been the cornerstone of economies around the world. They possess a unique blend of tradition, values, and resilience that set them apart from other enterprises. The Malta Chamber has always been a catalyst for this sector to survive as times change and markets evolve. It’s crucial for family businesses to adapt, upgrade, remain competitive and sustainable,” said Chris Vassallo Cesareo, President of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, during a press conference that launched a course titled ‘Award in Leading a Family Business’.

This course, which is being organised in collaboration with EMCS Academy and the Family Business Office in Malta, aims to offer trainees a combination of lectures, tutorials and coaching. This provides an opportunity for them to interact with their peers and freely discuss topics brought forward and in so doing provide abstract and concrete solutions to problems related to family businesses.

Minister for Enterprise Miriam Dalli said that “the Government deeply values the significance of continuous training, reskilling, and fostering skill enhancement. By extending the Skills Development Scheme through Malta Enterprise, we aim to empower growth within Malta’s businesses. Our commitment is further underscored by the Family Business Office, offering invaluable support and initiatives. These resources extend a helping hand to family businesses, not just financially, but also through advisory, consultancy, and mediation services. I urge all family businesses to use these tools. The right skills, can ensure a smooth transition of family businesses from one generation to the next.”

“Over the past 10 years our country has made great strides in policy and regulation for family business. However, just 8 years ago, as government, we were still discussing the salient characteristics of what truly makes a family business and why these need to be recognised and supported more. In 2017 we agreed on a definition, and legislated to encourage the regulation of family businesses, their governance and the transfer of the family business from one generation to the next. Today, we are achieving a new milestone with the launch of these accredited training courses intended to provide those involved in family businesses with the necessary skill set to lead the family business towards success,” emphasised Dr Joseph Gerada, Regulator at the Family Business Office.

“Today an important step is being made, that will enable all those involved in family businesses to acquire all the necessary skills to be able to lead successfully and in a more professional way, their family business,” said Silvan Mifsud, Council Member and Chair of the Family Business Committee within The Malta Chamber.

“EMCS Academy is proud to be launching, a unique course for all those involved in the management of a family business environment as well as next generational family business owners. The course seeks to empower entrepreneurs with the necessary knowledge, skills, and competences to effectively lead a family business using a strategic mindset. The course will target aspects pertaining to the setting up of the appropriate corporate governance structures that ensure a system of checks and balances coupled with the right policies; ensuring that the family business becomes a data-driven organisation, whereby decisions are based on timely data reporting and analysis and equally important becoming knowledgeable about all the steps and variations that have to be considered along the Succession Planning journey,” noted Ramon Muscat, Director at EMCS Academy.

Dr Marthese Portelli, The Malta Chamber CEO, highlighted that family businesses amount to more than 70% of small and medium enterprises, which makes them a vital component of our economy. “This confirms why we need family businesses to be resilient and to grow in the proper way allowing them to broaden their horizons and to become even more resilient in the face of change,” she said. Dr Portelli underlined an alarming statistic from a recent survey conducted in collaboration with EMCS stating that less than 35% of family businesses have a written succession and strategic plan. However, The Malta Chamber CEO also outlined that family businesses showed their willingness to up their game in relation to corporate governance, strategic planning, green initiatives and digitalisation efforts. “To this end, The Malta Chamber encourages all family businesses to take up this accredited course and to avail themselves of funding support offered by Malta Enterprise and Jobsplus,” concluded Dr Portelli.

More information about the course:

The ‘Award in Leading a Family Business’ course is the first of its kind to be offered in Malta and has been accredited by the Malta Further and Higher Education Authority at MQF/EQF Level 5 (3 ECTS).

The first cohort of this course will start in November 2023 and will run until April 2024. A maximum of 15 trainees will be accepted and registration will be on a first-come first served basis.

This course is made up of 3 modules:

Module 1: Ownership & Structure in Family Business
Module 2: Strategic Planning in Family Business
Module 3: Ensuring a Professional Setup in Family Business

Each module will span over 2 months. During the first month, three in person sessions will be held, as well as a tutorial, amounting to a total of 9 hours. During the second month, trainees will be given the opportunity to avail of one-to-one coaching which can be held online or in person. During this second month, trainees would also be able to work on the assignment for the module in question. All assignments will be based on trainees applying the principles learnt in that module, to the family business they are involved in. 

Persons taking this course will be able to benefit from funding schemes provided by Jobsplus and Malta Enterprise. The EMCS Academy team will guide trainees wishing to avail of available schemes.  

More information about this course can be found on the EMCS Academy website.